The End of Term

In one of my classes this term, I finished my lectures with time to spare. In the other two, I was so far behind, I had to skip content (which I hate to do) and talk really fast (which I really hate to do).

I try to make lectures fill the time available. That's not easy when I've got a new lecture: I don't know how long it'll take exactly. Maybe students will have lots of questions, or maybe my PowerPoint slides are confusing and I have to make up for it with a lot of top-of-my-head explaining. On the other hand, it could be deadly boring, and I'll rip through it just to put an end to everyone's misery.

One thing that helps is showing videos in class--for a number of reasons. They're great buffers. Running short of time? Cut the videos. Lots of time to spare? Show them all. Of course, I'd always like to show all the videos, because I believe there's some educational value in hearing people explain their theories in her own words. Especially if they're, er, dead now. I still have fond memories of some of the interesting videos that were shown in the classes I took as an undergrad.

Despite cutting out some videos, things didn't work out this term. But I know why: not all terms are created equal. For example, Tuesday/Thursday courses can have 25 or 26 classes during a Fall or Winter term. That's a difference of 80 minutes, which is a lot of lecture. It's even worse for Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday/Friday classes, which can have 36, 37, or even 38 classes--creating a maximum difference of 100 minutes.

Beyond showing videos, I really don't know how else to handle this variability. Should I create more lecture material and only use it some terms? But is that fair to the students who enroll in a different term and are "deprived" of some of my wonderful lectures? Should I just rip through it all when I'm short of classes in a given term? Or should I just try and fill the minimum amount of time, and then cancel any extraneous classes? (Why am I even asking this? Believe it or not, some students do not want profs to cancel any classes--they want to get as much of the time they paid for as possible.)

I'm looking forward to Spring term because the number of classes is always reliably the same. Although the amount of time I have to lecture in Spring is actually less than a Fall or Winter course. *sigh*

Why aren't you studying?


Anastasia said...

"It's even worse for Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday classes"

Do you perchance mean Monday/Wednesday/Friday classes?

Karsten Loepelmann said...

@Anastasia: *sigh* I can't even come up with a lame joke to cover my egregious error. It's the end of term blues...

Samsonite said...

I'm personally not a fan of the whole "rushing through the notes" thing even if time is low. As for cutting classes - with a professor like you, it would be a shame not to make full use of all the lecture time. :) I'm sure what with videos, review classes, and letting students go a bit early, filling extra time isn't a problem - unfortunately you can't always satisfy all terms and class sections, but c'est la vie, you shouldn't overly worry yourself about that. As for being short on time, perhaps you could structure your lecture notes with a straightforward "interesting facts/studies" section at the end that students could cover on their own time if you don't have enough. At any rate, you should always account for one sick day per term just to be safe. Then you could use that lesson to show videos if you're sick, and if you're not, have a quick lecture on some interesting or funny topic, maybe even with class discussion. That's all I can think of now!!!

Karsten Loepelmann said...

@Samsonite: You know, that's not a bad idea, scheduling a "sick day." I can eventually get rid of it once my kids are no longer going to that wretched hive of viruses and bacteria, daycare. Thanks for the suggestion!

KJ said...

Agree with Samsonite. I have had profs that say they have scheduled off 1-2 sick days just in case, and they either finish a day early at the end of the semester, or slow down and teach it in a more meaningul way. And uh....for psych 365...some things could DEFINITELY be cut (re: spring...dipole model & *ahem* anything Marr-related) :) I am not sure why some material is still in there when clearly it takes great pains to understand it, which I believe you even said one section you will take out because students are having a hard time with it. As well, there is PLENTY of difficult material in the course to allow a few cutbacks.

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